In a Word

inwit
n. reason, intellect, understanding

outwit
n. the faculty of observing the world

Finding Yourself

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mozart_magic_flute.jpg

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are.
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are.

Choose any word in the first two lines, count its letters, and count forward that number of words. For example, if you choose STAR, which has four letters, you’d count ahead four words, beginning with HOW, to reach WHAT. Count the number of letters in that word and count ahead as before. Continue until you can’t go any further. You’ll always land on YOU in the last line.

See Finding Religion and The Kruskal Count.

Pandora’s Divorce

In June 1946, 44-year-old Fern Bowden filed for divorce from her husband James, charging him with “cruel and inhuman treatment” and asking $100 a month to support their two teenage daughters. James filed an answer denying the charges and accusing his wife of keeping company with other men while he had been in Alaska on war business.

In mid-July, James began working with a small trunk which he kept locked in the basement of their Oregon home. He refused to tell the family what it contained but warned them repeatedly not to try to open it; when the girls came upon their father working on it he shouted at them to get out. Only he and their mother, he said, had the padlock combination.

On July 27, alone at home, Fern opened the box. “The cellar of the Bowden residence was wrecked by the explosion,” reported the Associated Press. “Small pieces of flesh and bone found scattered throughout the shattered parts of the home have been identified by the police criminal laboratory as human.”

Detectives determined that the trunk had contained six sticks of dynamite rigged with tacks, wire, and a small battery.

James was charged with illegal possession of explosives and first-degree murder.

Weatherproof

http://www.google.com/patents/about?id=GrIYAAAAEBAJ

In 1998 Tennessee inventor Thomas Bennington conceived a novel way to make a wind-resistant house: Mount a decommissioned airliner on a rotating pillar. “The design and configuration of the fuselage enables it to always point into the wind, thereby presenting the smallest cross-sectional area to the destructive wind forces.”

Bennington envisions the house contending successfully with thunderstorms, tornadoes, and hurricanes. “Market forces have made certain types of commercial aircraft structures similar in cost per square foot to that of conventional ground-based dwellings. Such aircraft include Boeing 727s that have been removed from active service. Of course, the quality of the materials used in the fabrication of and the engineering associated with such aircraft are far superior than those seen in most wood-framed homes.”

Turn, Turn, Turn

New Jersey magician Karl Fulves invented this ESP trick. Hand a friend an ordinary die and turn your back. Ask her to place the die on a table. Now ask her to give the die a quarter turn: If the top number is even, she must turn it to the east (to her right), and if the top number is odd, she must turn it north (away from her). This exposes a new top number, and she can turn the die again according to the same rule, turning it east if the number is even and north if it’s odd. After she has continued in this way for several turns, you ask her to stop when the top number is 1, then to give the die one final turn and to concentrate on the top number. It would seem as though the final number might be any one of four possibilities, but you can name it correctly with your back turned. How?

Click for Answer

Law and Order

My first lesson in the meticulous use of words occurred in connection with a series of burglaries in the neighborhood. Just behind us on Exeter Street lived a well-known Boston spinster, Miss Ella Day by name. One moonlight night, when I was about ten years old, I was aroused by the noise of a watchman’s rattle and hurried to the window hoping to catch sight of the burglar leaping over the back-yard fences. Although I could see no burglar, I did see Miss Day’s attenuated right arm projecting from her window with the rattle, which she was vigorously whirling, at the end of it. Thoroughly thrilled, I called across to her:

‘Miss Day! Miss Day! What is it? Robbers?’

Even now I can hear her thin shaking voice with its slightly condescending acerbity:

‘No — burglars!’

— Arthur Train, Puritan’s Progress, 1931

Illumination

http://www.sxc.hu/photo/521766

In 1969, as NASA was preparing to send the first men to the moon, it invited world leaders to compose goodwill messages to be recorded on a silicon disc and left on the Sea of Tranquility.

Most of them sent rather banal greetings, but Félix Houphouët-Boigny, president of Ivory Coast, sent this:

At the moment when man’s oldest dream is becoming a reality, I am very thankful for NASA’s kind attention in offering me the services of the first human messenger to set foot on the Moon and carry the words of the Ivory Coast. I would hope that when this passenger from the sky leaves man’s imprint on lunar soil, he will feel how proud we are to belong to the generation which has accomplished this feat.

I hope also that he would tell the Moon how beautiful it is when it illuminates the nights of the Ivory Coast. I especially wish that he would turn towards our planet Earth and cry out how insignificant the problems which torture men are, when viewed from up there.

Soulmates

In 1966, asked to describe the person least likely to develop atherosclerosis, Cambridge research fellow Alan N. Howard answered, “A hypotensive, bicycling, unemployed, hypo-beta-lipoproteinic, hyper-alpha-lipoproteinic, non-smoking, hypolipaemic, underweight, premenopausal female dwarf living in a crowded room on the island of Crete before 1925 and subsisting on a diet of uncoated cereals, safflower oil, and water.”

Oxford physician Alan Norton added that her male counterpart was an ectomorphic Bantu who worked as a London bus conductor, had spent the war in a Norwegian prison camp, never ate refined sugar, never drank coffee, always ate five or more small meals a day, and was taking large doses of estrogen to check the growth of his prostate cancer.

“All these phrases mark correlations established in the last few years in a field of medical research which, in volume at least, is unsurpassed,” noted Richard Mould in Mould’s Medical Anecdotes. “The conflict of evidence is unequalled as well.”

Ho

If this sentence is true, then Santa Claus exists.

If that sentence is true, then it’s the case that Santa Claus exists. But wait — in making this observation, we seem to have confirmed the truth of the original sentence. And if that sentence is true, then Santa Claus exists! Where is the error?

(By Raymond Smullyan.)

Till Death

At 1 p.m. on Dec. 31, 1910, West Virginia peach grower Charles Twigg called on his fiancee, Grace Elosser, at her home in Cumberland, Md. The two were to be married the following day. They closed themselves in the parlor and remained undisturbed until 2:30, when Grace’s mother looked in with a question. She found Charles sitting in a corner of the divan, with Grace leaning against him. Both were dead.

A post-mortem suggested traces of cyanide in their stomachs, but no container was found on the bodies or in the room. If it was not suicide, was it murder? The couple had led uneventful lives, and only Grace’s family had had access to the parlor. A jury returned a verdict of cyanide poisoning “at the hands of person or persons to us unknown.”

The matter remained at an impasse until Jan. 28, when, as an experiment, doctors J.R. Littlefield and A.H. Hawkins left two cats in baskets on the parlor divan, lighted the stove, and closed the door for an hour. Both cats died. The lovers’ bodies were exhumed, and an examination showed that they had died of carbon monoxide poisoning. The flue had been choked with soot, and the odorless gas had overwhelmed the couple.

The Elossers cleaned the flue and moved out the house, but nearly the same tragedy befell the two women who succeeded them. On Feb. 21, 1913, a neighbor happened to call and found both women unconscious in their chairs. It was discovered that two bricks had been placed in the flue to reduce its draft, and soot had again choked the narrowed opening.